Millions of dollars are beginning to trickle into Maine for state and local government, individuals and households and the unemployed.
The aid comes from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in mid-March.
Within days of the signed legislation, $1,400 checks to individuals began to hit bank accounts. Mainers are expected to see a boost of about $1 billion from these stimulus payments alone. For some, the funds are a desperate lifeline needed to keep them afloat. For others, especially those who have kept their jobs during the pandemic, the money will likely be saved for a rainy day or spent to stimulate the sluggish economy.
Maine’s municipalities will also see an additional $225 million to divvy up between the roughly 500 municipalities around the state. Maine’s five largest cities (Auburn, Bangor, Biddeford, Lewiston and Portland) are expected to receive $110 in direct aid, while the remaining municipalities will receive an estimated $115 million to be distributed through state government.
While the specifics of what the money can be used for have yet to be released in their entirety, the National Conference of State Legislators has indicated that these funds can be used to cover lost revenue; assist households, small businesses and nonprofits; make infrastructure investments; or provide premium pay to employees.
American Rescue Plan funds can also be used to cover revenue losses attributable to the pandemic or to make needed infrastructure investments, whether for roads, water and sewer facilities or broadband internet.
State and local governments are barred from using stimulus funds to “directly or indirectly” offset a tax cut or tax credits, deductions or rebates.
This last year has been difficult for individuals and small businesses. And while municipalities have taken a hit in some areas, many fared quite well, according to end–of–year audits.
Yes, some revenue budget lines were down, but many towns and cities paid less in employee overtime, saved money keeping public facilities closed and saw gains from investment income tied to a stock market that barely flinched during the pandemic.
We urge local municipalities to take a long, hard look at their needs, the needs of their citizens and their overall budgets and find ways to ease the burden to taxpayers or residents.
The money is meant for pandemic response so let’s figure out how, either directly or indirectly, these funds can be targeted to benefit those who need it most.